Democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms

My dear friend Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Islandic MP (Pirate Party) has send me a request for endorsement or support for her Inter Parliamentay Union (IPU) resolution titled Democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms. This resolution will be on the agenda of the IPU general assembly in a couple of weeks and Birgitta wishes hopefully adopted without major attempts to weaken it. The resolution was drafted by two co-rapporteurs: Birgitta, with a few amendments from H.J. Juhn, Parliamentarian from the Republic of Korea. This resolution is a direct response to recent revelations to about mass surveillance carried out by nation states, that systematically violate the right to privacy of the global population. The IPU is an ideal platform to shed light on these matters and find solutions to protect democracy and civil and human rights. The IPU consists of 166 nations and parliamentarians from all corners of the world, both in government and opposition. In the resolution effective parliamentary oversight and measures for safeguards are highlighted when it comes to surveillance agencies and other connected government institutions. Representative democracy must be accountable for government policies and conduct and must, therefore, have the appropriate means and instruments to step in when governments have run amok. Accountability and transparency must be restored and democracy protected. In the early stages of the draft attempts were made for example by the Australian delegation to rid the resolution of any mention of surveillance, Birgitta of course did not allow that, but the challenge remains to make sure such attempts will not be successful at the assembly before the resolution will be passed. In order to protect it from all teeth of real value will be pulled out, it is critical to apply pressure through awareness about this resolution before it is too late. What we now have is a valuable resolution with expert input and we must ensure that the resolution gathers wide support without it being weakened, to see its full adoption which will give civil rights advocates – both within parliaments and in civil society – stronger mandate to promote legislative changes on a national level, protecting the right to privacy, safety of communications and respect for human rights online, just as offline. Birgitta asks me to help push this important resolution by endorsing it formally. Of course I agree with the resolution and think that such an act should and must be adopted.

Draft resolution

Explanatory memorandum

The website

And my thoughts:

I was delighted to learn that a resolution outlining the need to meet the challenges of the digital era is to be presented to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It is often said that the law lags behind the progress of technology. This progress has never been so rapid and never had so much influence on the functioning of the democracy, both by the use and by misuse of the tools offered by the digital technologies. To defend the rights of an individual, particularly the right to privacy which is a cornerstone of freedoms that form the foundation of our democracy, legislative challenges should be met by the national parliaments. This resolution underscores the key areas where the regulations should be strengthened. Harmonisation of national laws may become the basis for supranational agreements which, in the light of revelations about the scale of intrusions into privacy of individuals, should start to be contemplated. I appeal to the 133rd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to lead the way by adopting the resolution.